As free agency starts to take a little bit of a backseat with the NFL draft approaching, there are still plenty of difference makers left to be added to perspective NFL rosters. The Dallas Cowboys have been much more active this offseason as compared to seasons past. There have been some splash moves, and also some under the radar moves that have seemingly filled needs along the starting unit, or just simply for depth purposes. In the case of depth, there is one area that seemingly still lacks it and that is at guard.
Connor McGovern who started 15 games this past season recently signed with the Buffalo Bills. This departure has left a sizable hole along the interior of the offensive line. The Cowboys did pivot however, by signing Chuma Edoga who just so happened to be in the same draft class as McGovern and was originally drafted by the New York Jets just two slots behind him in 2019. Edoga hasn’t played in as many games as McGovern has to this point but still has 26 games and 13 starts to his credit.
The Edoga signing is a step in the right direction, but there is still some work left to do in terms of solidifying the interior of the offensive line. At this moment, Zack Martin and Tyler Smith are listed as the starting guards. With Tyron Smith often injured in recent years, the unfortunate expectation these days is to be without Tyron Smith at some point in 2023. If this expectation is unfortunately fulfilled, then as it stands there could be troubled waters ahead on the offensive line. These troubled waters come in the form of essentially having just Matt Farniok and the recently-signed Chuma Edoga to choose from as a potential starter at left guard.
The franchise would be wise to get ahead of this possibility that seemingly is a certainty given the way things have played out with Tyron Smith in recent years. The best way to get in front of this is by bringing in a proven veteran guard as an insurance policy. Having this insurance policy ready to go will go a long way in not only protecting franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, but also protecting the teams chances at making a nice playoff run this upcoming season.
There are three veterans that would fit this criteria and fill a need that are currently free agents. With cap room still available, Dallas could be wise to do their due-diligence on the following players:
By the time the 2023 season kicks off, Rodger Saffold will be 35 years old and in his 14th NFL season. Saffold, who was originally a second-round pick all the way back in 2010, entered the league as a left tackle. However he would slide in at guard in his fourth season, and to date this is where he has played.
The transition from tackle to guard was a good one as he has played quality football for awhile now and has also made a lot money along the way. Although he has been in the trenches for a long time, he still plays the game well enough to be a depth player and even a spot starter if needed. His experience in the league would be beneficial for the younger and inexperienced players currently on the roster.
Going back a decade to the 2013 NFL Draft, Justin Pugh would be drafted by NFC East rival New York Giants with the 19th pick in round one. Just like Saffold, Pugh started his NFL journey by playing the tackle position, but in Pugh’s case it was on the right side. Interestingly enough, his journey would have similar parallels to Saffold’s as he would slide inside to guard a few years into his professional career.
Since 2015, Pugh has been primarily a left guard who would occasionally kick out to tackle when called upon. He is at his best playing along the interior, which he has done well the last five seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. With the 2023 season approaching, he will be 33 years old and coming off of an ACL tear that he suffered in Week 6 but recently stated on social media that he will be ready to go Week 1. If this is the case, then the Cowboys should pick up the phone and see what it would take to bring him to town.
As a 2019 second-round pick, Dalton Risner has been a constant along the interior of the offensive line for the Denver Broncos. From the get go as a rookie, Risner claimed the starting left guard job with Denver and never looked back. He also checks two particular boxes that Saffold and Pugh do not, which is age and health. Risner will be 28 when the 2023 regular season starts, and since entering the league he has missed just four games due to injury. With his rookie deal now expired, this offseason is his first as a free agent and he will be looking for a nice payday for his efforts. That payday could be coming any day now due teams looking for steady play along the offensive line.
Risner is the type of acquisition that would solidify any depth concerns if an injury were to happen. He is also the type of player that could allow Tyler Smith to kick out to left tackle, and Tyron Smith over to right tackle. This would also allow Terence Steele plenty of time to heal up from the ACL injury he suffered last season. Risner will more than likely cost the Cowboys more on average per season in comparison to what the Buffalo Bills gave Connor McGovern recently. However, he would also be an upgrade over what McGovern offered from an on-field perspective. If the Cowboys are willing to open up that check book a little bit more, Risner would be another solid acquisition for Dallas.